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Clifton Rc Cathedral, Bristol, 10th May 2008


DaveHarries
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Hi,

 

On Saturday evening, 10th May, I went to a recital on the 1973 Reiger organ at Clifton Cathedral Bristol. The organ has just undergone a renovation by Wood of Huddersfield and this concert was the first one following completion of that work. Here are my thoughts on the concert.

 

Firstly, the lowdown:

 

The Time: 730pm

The Date: Saturday 10th May 2008

The Place: Clifton RC Cathedral, Bristol

The Theme: Music for the Feast of Pentecost

The Organist: James O'Donnell (Organist & Master of the Choristers, Westminster Abbey)

 

and now my thoughts:

 

 

The Programme:

 

JS Bach - Fantasia super Komm heiliger Geist (BWV 651)

A grand opening for the concert. Sounded great on this instrument and, to my ear anyway, a fraction apocalyptic.

 

N. de Grigny - Veni Creator Spiritus (En taille a 5 -> Fugue a 5 -> Duo -> Recit de Cromorne -> Dialogue sur les grands Jeux)

de Grigny is a composer who, as far as I can recall, I had never heard of until this concert. This suite of 5 pieces was a wonderful introduction of his music for me and I hope to hear more in the future. James O'Donnell had no problems balancing the Cromorne in the 4th part of the suite with the sounds underneath and the Dialogue at the end was superb. Just a pity, in my opinion, that the individual parts were as brief as they were.

 

Olivier Messiaen - from Messe de la Pentecote:

- Communion (Les oiseaux et les sources)

- Sortie (Le vent de l'Esprit)

Unlike de Grigny I have heard Messiaen's music many times. However I hd never heard of his Messe de la Pentecote until this concert. The two movements were excellently played. The communion employed solely the flues on keyboard three, along with some of the higher pitch stops on the first keyboard to give the effects of the birds. Sounded cheeky in one part near the beginning and made me laugh quietly to myself. This was a sharp contrast to the Sortie which was a grand affair but it reminded me of fire, rather than wind.

 

Jean Alain

- Intermezo

- Litanies

This was interesting stuff. Mr. O'Donnell mentioned at the start of the concert that one of these parts had been transcribed from bassoon to organ by Alain. This referred, I think, to the Litanies which I had heard somewhere before and I am not sure if that was on an organ. No matter though as the Litanies sounded great on the organ.

 

M Durufle - Variations on Veni Creator Spiritus

I can't recall having heard the original of Veni Creator Spiritus (which I think I have seen used somewhere as a hymn tune?). The original, which I think was played first, sounded great and the brief improvisations - of which I counted 5 or 6 - were equally good.

 

JS Bach - Prelude & Fuge in E-flat (St. Anne, BWV 552

This is one of my favourite pieces and one of which I can never get enough. A good choice to end with although I have two things to say which are a touch negative. Firstly I found the opening notes of the Prelude were a touch quick for my likening. Secondly the bass wasn't quite loud enough to carry the St. Anne tune. No matter though as I still enjoyed the piece and the playing.

 

Overall: A superb concert which was much appreciated by the audience of 60-70 who came to hear it. The remaining concerts are:

 

- Music for the Feast of the Holy Trinity (Stephen Bryant, organist of Clifton Cathedral) on 17th May 2008 @ 7:30pm

- Music for the Feast of the Corpus Christi (John Gibbons, choral director of Clifton Cathedral) on 24th May 2008 @ 7:30pm

 

and they will, I reckon, be worth hearing. Well done to Mr. O'Donnell on a great concert.

 

 

HTIOI,

 

Dave

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The acoustic is a help here too - it is surprising what one can play reasonably effectively on the Reiger which in theory should not work at all!

 

AJJ

 

PS 'Did a dissertation on De Grigny for my degree - a fascinating composer in his context.

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The acoustic is a help here too - it is surprising what one can play reasonably effectively on the Reiger which in theory should not work at all!

 

AJJ

 

PS 'Did a dissertation on De Grigny for my degree - a fascinating composer in his context.

 

De Grigny is a fascinating composer, but I always have had a love of the French Classical organ.

 

Jonathan

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Dave, what work did Wood do? No alterations, I hope! I like that organ very much, though I seem to remember it is just a tad lacking in the pedal department, which might explain your reservations about the St Anne.

 

As for the Alain, it's the Intermezzo Mr O'Donnell was referring to. It was originally scored for two pianos and bassoon. Nice piece.

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Dave, what work did Wood do? No alterations, I hope! I like that organ very much, though I seem to remember it is just a tad lacking in the pedal department, which might explain your reservations about the St Anne.

 

As for the Alain, it's the Intermezzo Mr O'Donnell was referring to. It was originally scored for two pianos and bassoon. Nice piece.

Hi mate,

 

Apparently the organ hadn't been cleaned in some years (since 1989, I think? I forget what one of the Wood crew told me but it was something like that) so it was a cleaning and renovation job. I think a couple of the pipes needed fixing and were sent back to Huddersfield.

 

But no alterations were made.

 

Dave

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This organ was one of the first that I ever heard, on an LP of Bach by Nicolas Kynaston on Classics for Pleasure, the sleeve of which showed a magnificent baroque organ! I thought all organs sounded like this; no wonder I turned into a neo-classical fan. I agree about the lack of bass power, during the grand climax towards the end of the prelude of BWV540, the bottom C pedal note can be "discerned" but not exactly felt. I managed to get this as a CD many years back (again on CFP) so no need to wear out the vinyl.

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It probably sounds better on the recording than it does live. In the flesh it sounds best - magnificent even - at the console. Heard from the body of the cathedral I always felt that much of the sound went straight up ino the top of the wigwam never to descend. Same with the choir. Slightly strange acoustic (though not as odd as that place across the road which makes organ and choral music sound decidely electronic).

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This organ was one of the first that I ever heard, on an LP of Bach by Nicolas Kynaston on Classics for Pleasure, the sleeve of which showed a magnificent baroque organ! I thought all organs sounded like this; no wonder I turned into a neo-classical fan. I agree about the lack of bass power, during the grand climax towards the end of the prelude of BWV540, the bottom C pedal note can be "discerned" but not exactly felt. I managed to get this as a CD many years back (again on CFP) so no need to wear out the vinyl.

 

I have that CD too, and I like it very much. Only in the G-Minor Fantasia, it's slightly odd that Kynaston uses the BW Regal to underpin the tutti -- the only 16-foot available on the manuals. But that's Joseph von Glatter-Götz. And the playing is splendid throughout.

 

Oh, and Kynaston's first movement from Widor's Sixth at the Royal Albert Hall on the same set. Organ music, as good as it gets.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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I had the pleasure of playing this organ a few years back. On paper it looked a somewhat unlikely spec, and Riegers have not always been without controversy. In the flesh it was an absolute thrill to play. I can commend an excellent choral CD from Clifton Cathedral too directed I think by David Ogden.

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